Wherever I travel, I always try to find a winery. Not that I can’t go a day without a glass of wine, but it’s a great way to check out local offerings and to taste the differences in growing regions. On this first trip to Jacksonville, I wasn’t sure I’d find one so close. San Sebastian Winery in St. Augustine, was only 45 minutes away by car. Sweet.
Established in 1996, San Sebastien Winery uses a combination of hybrid bunch grapes; Stover, Suwannee, Blanc Du Bois along with Muscadine. The Muscadine grape thrives in humid, warm conditions and well-drained, loamy sand. It bears fruit in small, loose clusters that allow for better air flow and circulation. If you look at the picture, they look really different from what we’re used to here in Ohio.
Their growing season begins from bud break in mid-March to harvest in late July and August.The skins change from a bronze into a deep blackberry color, when fully ripe, and have a very high content of polyphenols and trans-resveratrol, highly touted for its’ health benefits. Muscadine wine is typically sweeter due to the sugar content from the winemaking process.
Unlike many wineries I’ve visited, there was no direct access to their vineyards, (Lakeridge Winery) located several miles away in Clermont, Fla. So we toured the winery, saw an informational video about how wine is made, had a quick look at the barrel room, the bottling area and finally wound it all up in the tasting room. There, we sampled a few of their products including: the Castillo Red (very Merlot-like) and the Stover Reserve ~ quickly moving down the list, from dry to sweet, until we reached the sherry and port.
Tour guide Doc Michealson, instructed visitors on why the swirl is important and, specifically, how to properly sip the port and sherry. He explained that it would take three sips of each to get the full flavor. One lone sip and all we’d taste would be “the booze”, not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, I got his point that the beauty was in tasting the nuance of the flavors. For a winery whose mandate is for visitors to take with them some education about wine, and also a bottle or two, they do a nice job.
We found that most of the wines tended to be on the sweet side, even ones that were billed as dry, tasted quite sweet. That makes sense given the type of cultivar that do well in summer heat as well as the style of winemaking. It also could be because our palates are used to beefier, full-bodied reds from Italy, Oregon, Washington and Napa.
But that was the most interesting element because it was a true expression of their particular terroir.
Instead of being a copy of some other style, it was uniquely their own.